“At night, on the sun having set, Maruti [Hanuman] contracted his body. Becoming the size of a cat, he was a wonderful sight to behold.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 2.49)
sūrye cāstaṃ gate rātrau dehaṃ saṃkśipya mārutiḥ |
vṛṣadaṃśakamātraḥ san babhūvādbhutadarśanaḥ
Shri Hanuman, in any form, is the most wonderful sight to behold. Whether he is engaged in acts of peace, violence, charity, fighting, or describing stories to his best friends, the faithful, pure, dedicated and kind nature of Hanuman is awe-inspiring and brings tears to the eyes of the beholder who can see past the boundaries erected by sectarianism, sentimentalism, and limited knowledge of the wonderful universe and its workings. In this beautiful passage provided by the Ramayana of Valmiki, Hanuman’s use of the anima-siddhi is being greatly appreciated, as the celestial monkey took on a diminutive stature for the purpose of finding a missing princess, the daughter of King Janaka, Sita Devi. Hanuman’s assuming the size of an ordinary cat is both amazing and wonderful to friend and foe alike. The admirer will understand that, as the faithful servant of Lord Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Hanuman was wholly capable of any wondrous feat, while to the foe such descriptions further delude their intelligence and support their claims that the classic Vedic texts represent nothing more than hyped up mythology. But the latter mindset is only present due to the frog philosophy, one where scenes and observations not detected by direct perception are considered lies and untruths. This is indeed a sad occurrence, as the viewpoint is not based on any level of intelligence, nor is it helpful in the grand scheme of things. Those who understand Hanuman and the descriptions of his activities found in texts like the Ramayana and Hanuman Chalisa know that he is a real character and that the only aspect of his life that is seemingly unreal is his dedication to God.
The observations of those who are skeptical of the accounts of the paranormal found in the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, can be compared to the remarks made by the frog who has spent his whole life in a well. If you were to try to describe the size of the Pacific Ocean to someone who has lived inside a well his whole life, it would be very difficult to do. The frog, who represents a person with a limited understanding, would ask, “So, compared to this well, how big is the Pacific Ocean? Is it two times the size? Five times the size of this well? Maybe one hundred times the size?” The frog doesn’t know any better; it is not intentionally being difficult in its attempts to understand the nature of this gigantic body of water, nor is it trying to trip up the person attempting to describe the size of one of the largest bodies of water in the world. The frog only knows what it has experienced; therefore it is incapable of truly understanding the size of any large body of water.
In a similar manner, young children, those in the first and second grades, look to older students, like sixth and seventh graders, as being very authoritative and large in stature. Yet to an adult, a sixth grader is still a young child, one who is not mature in any way. Viewpoints are based on direct sense perception and experience. Since the length and breadth of the entire universe are absolutely impossible to fathom for even the most intelligent scientist, knowledge of the universe and its workings will remain limited. When information is presented describing events and workings of nature that have never been directly perceived, the frog philosopher will use their blunt instruments and bodily senses to try to wrap their minds around the seemingly impossible details.
Only one entity, the Supreme Lord, the creator of everything, can understand all the intricate details of the nature He created. Indeed, if one could attain perfect and complete knowledge, they would lose their position as a fallible living entity. It is actually impossible to think beyond the limits of time and space, as who can actually conceptualize the idea of eternality, or sanatana? The properties of spirit are described as sanatana, which means without beginning and without end. This goes against the very fiber of our sense perceptions, as the descriptions of all events start with a beginning and conclude with an ending. Therefore only God can understand the true nature of time, space, and the amazing workings of the universe. The scientist, through their sincere endeavors, may be able to understand the workings of atoms and how one can use them to their benefit, but they still have yet to wrap their arms around the concept of a tiny pea-like entity surviving in the tiniest of spaces known as the womb. A human being, through the use of advanced machinery and modern science, can travel to outer space at great cost, but they still have no ability to travel within the tiniest of spaces, one which was already inhabited during the prenatal period. How can anyone claim to know everything if even past feats can’t be repeated?
Shri Hanuman, the faithful Vanara warrior and servant of Lord Rama, wasn’t decorated with degrees in various sciences, but he did possess the highest level of love and respect for God. Due to his burning desire to always offer his services to the Lord, he was granted every skill necessary for performing his tasks. In relation to spiritual life, the foremost practice of which is known as bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, the qualitative aspects of the service offered cannot be measured or compared. This is because each individual life form is born with different propensities and different abilities as it pertains to worldly work. But what can be measured is the degree to which one taps into their potential for service. In this respect, Hanuman is the greatest devotee, as he did not let any of his abilities go to waste.
“O son of Kunti [Arjuna], I am the taste of water, the light of the sun and the moon, the syllable om in the Vedic mantras; I am the sound in ether and ability in man.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.8)
In the Bhagavad-gita, the Song of God, the most complete and succinct set of information and instructions pertaining to spirituality the world has ever seen, Lord Krishna, the original form of Godhead appearing on earth in a seemingly human form, reveals that He is the ability in man. The individual spiritual spark is the driving force behind activity, but the results of such work are distributed by the higher authorities in charge of the workings of nature. No one can lay original claim to their abilities, as every tool at their disposal is provided by the Supreme Lord. In Hanuman’s case, he was equipped with extraordinary skills that spanned many different fields of activity. Hanuman had mastery over the Sanskrit language; not only could he understand it perfectly, but he could compose beautiful Sanskrit poetry on the fly, without even thinking. There are many rules that must be followed when composing work in Sanskrit, so to be able to follow them while properly conveying the message at the same time requires great thought and intelligence. Hanuman, though in the body of a human-like monkey, had complete grasp of the oldest language in the world.
“One cannot speak this way without having been well-trained in the Rig Veda, memorized the Yajur Veda, and thoroughly understood the Sama Veda.” (Lord Rama speaking to Lakshmana about Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 3.28)
Hanuman also knew the three primary Vedas to perfection. The original scriptural tradition of India is known as the Veda, which as a word translates to knowledge. Amazingly enough, the Veda simply contains hymns, songs glorifying the Supreme Absolute Truth. Goswami Tulsidas, a famous poet and exalted Vaishnava saint, remarks that the glories of the Lord are well established in the Vedas, which constantly sing His glories. In order to make these hymns more understandable to the fallen people of the material world, the Veda was later divided into branches. Typically brahmanas, or expert priests, would choose to focus their studies on only one of these four Vedas, but those who knew more than one were considered quite learned. Hanuman, through his speaking abilities, proved that he had mastery over the three primary Vedas, though in reality there was nothing about spiritual life unknown to Hanuman.
Hanuman also had mastery over mystic yoga, the ancient art of linking to the divine consciousness through sense control practiced by the sages of the Vedic tradition. Yoga is generally practiced today as an exercise routine due to the health benefits it provides, but the original purpose of the system was to detach the mind from the senses. Just as one who can avoid anger and rage is considered superior to one who can’t, the ability to control the mind and detach it from all objects of sense interaction is considered a superior skill. One who practices the various breathing exercises and gymnastics poses properly can thus acquire what are known as siddhis, or perfections. Because perfections are so difficult to attain, most yogis typically choose to focus their efforts on one or two siddhis. An expert yogi can become larger than the largest object, have out-of-body experiences by travelling through outer space, and survive for long periods of time without breathing. Hanuman, not surprisingly, had mastery over all the siddhis without having to put forth any extra effort. He had no desire to change his shape or travel through space, but these abilities were given to him for a reason. His time to shine would come soon enough.
During the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation, the Supreme Absolute Truth, that singular entity worshiped since the beginning of time by different names such as God, Bhagavan and Krishna, descended to earth in the guise of a human being. How can God take birth as a ordinary living entity? This is certainly an extraordinary ability, one lost on those deluded by the frog mentality. If God created all the innumerable planets and the giant sun which never burns out of energy, why can’t He take on the guise of a fallible living entity and roam this earth? He surely isn’t affected by the workings of nature in the same way that ordinary men are, but this doesn’t preclude Him from directly appearing anywhere. He is antaryami after all, or the all-pervading witness of every activity performed by every living entity since the beginning of time. Therefore the only amazing aspect to His appearances on earth is just how well He plays the role of a fallible creature, all the while remaining completely unaffected by material contact. Not only do the non-devotees get fooled by the pastimes of the divine incarnations, but so do the purest devotees.
“The Blessed Lord said: Many, many births both you and I have passed. I can remember all of them, but you cannot, O subduer of the enemy!” (Bg. 4.5)
If someone loves God, how could they get tricked into taking Him to be an ordinary human being? There are two different aspects to the illusory energy that governs this world. One aspect results in the delusion that causes association with the temporary nature. Indeed, this deviation from the divine consciousness is the root cause of the existence of the phenomenal realm. As such, those who take God in His various incarnations like Lord Rama, Narasimha, and His original appearance as Krishna to be simply elevated manifestations of the Absolute Truth contained within bodies composed of maya are further deluded in their understanding. But the other aspect to the illusory energy works directly under the Lord’s supervision to act as an agent to enhance the loving exchanges between the pure devotees and their supreme loveable object. Love is very difficult to practice under the mood of awe and reverence. Surely the respectful attitude is superior to the one that outwardly denies the existence and supremacy of a divine worshipable figure, but it doesn’t represent the height of love. When there is equality or even a feeling of superiority towards the object of interest, the loving exchanges are further increased in intensity. When the loveable object is deemed to be in a distressful condition, the services offered are seen as required, things that must be performed in the hopes of alleviating the pain and suffering of the object that is being cared for. This was how the dealings between Rama and Hanuman worked.
Hanuman knew that Rama was someone special, but through the workings of nature and the desire to evoke the natural loving sentiments from His devotee Rama enveloped a cloud of ignorance around His closest associates. While Rama was residing in the forest of Dandaka with His younger brother Lakshmana and wife Sita Devi, the demon Ravana hatched up a scheme to take Sita away. The plan was enacted while Rama and Lakshmana were temporarily away from Sita’s side. Needing to find her whereabouts, Rama enlisted the aid of the Vanaras residing in Kishkindha. If the Vanaras viewed Rama as the person He was, the Almighty Supreme Lord, there would have been less impetus for service. After all, God can never suffer the loss of anyone, nor can He ever be frustrated. One of His names is Achyuta, which means one who never falls down. Love is always better practiced in the mood of unalloyed service, wherein the awe and reverence get suppressed by the pure affection felt by the subordinate party. Such was the case with the Vanaras, who counted Hanuman as their bravest and most sincere warrior. They saw Rama as needing help, a prince who was hurting due to a horrible deed perpetrated by the Rakshasas living in Lanka.
Sugriva, the king of the monkeys in Kishkindha, dispatched search parties around the world to find Sita, but he was sure that only Hanuman would be capable of finding her. His premonition would be correct, as Hanuman would be the only monkey capable of crossing the massive ocean that separated land from the island of Lanka where Sita was. To get across the ocean, Hanuman did not build a boat or an aircraft. Rather, he used his yogic powers to expand himself to the size of a mountain and leap across the ocean, using a mountaintop as his launching pad. He essentially took the aerial path by flying over the ocean after one giant leap. For a large mass, such as an airplane, to remain afloat in air, jet fuel and exact aerodynamic components and measurements are required. In Hanuman’s case, the required abilities were already provided to him. What he needed was strength, determination and perseverance, all of which came easily to him because of his sincerity of purpose. Hanuman always takes Rama’s business to be his own, the Lord’s pleasure to be his pleasure, and God’s apparent discomforts to be his only source of pain.
Hanuman was very eager to see Sita and allay her fears. Living as a captive amongst the vilest of creatures, surely she must have been a little fearful as to her future. When Hanuman reached the shores of Lanka, his challenges only increased. He had crossed the ocean, but now he needed a way to infiltrate the city without being noticed. He finally decided on assuming a diminutive form and entering at nighttime. In the above referenced passage, we see that Hanuman morphed to the size of a cat and that such a sight was wonderful to behold, adbhuta-darshana. Hanuman, though gifted with every prowess imaginable, had no attachment to any of them. He had just assumed a massive stature and leapt across the ocean, so that made it all the more amazing that he could assume a miniature stature not soon after.
Hanuman always chooses whatever form is necessary to accomplish his task. His mastery over yoga isn’t even used for sense control or the ability to perform gymnastics feats. He has no concern over living very long, though the duration of his stay on earth is fixed for as long as Rama’s story continues to be told. Indeed, there is no end to the glories of Hanuman; we can only begin to understand them by studying his behavior described in the Ramayana and other texts. While the different forms assumed by Hanuman in service to Rama are amazing to behold, his love and devotion to the jewel of the Raghu dynasty are far more awe-inspiring. Not surprisingly, Hanuman would successfully find Sita, temporarily allay her fears, set fire to the city of Lanka and return to Rama’s camp. The entire Vanara army, led by Rama and Lakshmana, would then march to Lanka and soundly defeat the enemy. Sita would be rescued, Rama would be made happy, and Hanuman would be forever glorified. To this day, he is always associated with Sita, Rama and Lakshmana. One can hear of his exploits over and over again and never tire of appreciating his glorious nature.
There has never been anyone like Hanuman to roam this earth. His glorious nature only further solidifies the Supreme Lord’s status as the ultimate object of pleasure, the foremost entity deserving adoration. Our valuable human life is meant for serving Rama with the same vim and vigor as that displayed by Hanuman. One who taps into their potential for service to the same degree will always be in the good graces of Hanuman and be able to remember both he and the lord of his life, Shri Rama, for all of eternity.